Mountain Man
Chapter 6

Copyright© 2018 by UtIdArWa

Around about midnight I got back to the cabin. As I was getting close, I heard Shadow start barking. Not his intruder alert bark, but the welcome home bark. I called out, “Yo, the cabin. Is anybody there?”

A quiet voice behind me and to my left startled me and said, “It’s about time. I was about to take your dinner off the stove”

I looked her way, but danged if I could spot her. “Lady, You’re good. Can I get down and take care of my critters?”

She stood up from behind the fern she had be using for camouflage. I saw that she had found my face paint. And made good use of it. “No problem Matt. By the time you’re finished, your dinner will be on the table. I hope you like rabbit stew. It was the best I could do, with what I had to hand.”

Her calling me Matt reminded me of our agreement. “Suzy, rabbit stew will be more than welcome.”

I led Jughead over to the porch and dumped his load. I then led him over to the paddock and stripped off the pack rig and bridle. Followed by a good rubdown. He had more than earned his rest. I laid out a double load of oats and made sure there was fresh hay in the feed bin.

While I was doing this Margarite wandered over and started bugging me for attention. She’d had a rough day too, so while I checked her over, she got her fair share of loving. And a butterscotch. She had obviously been well taken care of. Seeing that everything was good, I headed towards the house.

I found Shadow on the porch. He was in the Shadows on guard duty and obviously happy to see me. Between the thumping tail and toothy grin, who could possibly mistake a happy dog.

As I came into the living room, I immediately saw Professor Barth. She was huddled next to the fireplace, holding her cell phone. She was mumbling to herself “911, 911, 911”and dialing on the phone. Or at least pushing the buttons. I knew there wasn’t any cell reception up here. I asked her if everything was OK? She seemed to huddle closer into herself and turned away from me. Almost like she was keeping that phone away from me.

As Suzy was putting a spoon and bowl in front of me, she said “She’s been like that since we got here. I’m worried about her. If she doesn’t get some help soon, there may be even more permanent damage.”

It may have been my hunger, but as I ladled out a bowl of stew, it smelled delicious. “I agree, but we can’t do anything right now. My plan right now is to some sleep. Let the animals rest up. And then head for town in the morning.”

“What about those arseholes?”, straight to the point. I thought to myself.

With a certain amount of satisfaction, I told her “The last I saw of them they were climbing a mountain, freezing, hungry and tired. I’d be willing to bet that they’ll either show up in Challis next week. Or on that same mountain with the next spring thaw.”

I continued on, changing the subject. “I appreciate how you treated Margarite. You obviously have been around horse’s before.”

She kind of got a half smile on her face, and started telling me her tale of trials and tribulation.

Born in the Kentucky backwoods, the only girl of 3 boys. She was raised in an independent family.

Daddy was a scratch farmer, sometime moonshiner. Her Mother kept the household running and her husband out of trouble, or at least serious trouble. Her daddy taught her fishing, hunting and woodcrafts. These were important skills to a backwoods family. A trout, rabbit or squirrel were free contributions to the larder. When money was tight, as it usually was, free could mean the difference between life and death. And children were expected to make contributions.

As she grew up her mother taught her how to cook on a woodstove. Teaching her the secrets her mother and grandmother passed down, using the same woodburning stove and utensils those pioneers used. Ask anybody who has cooked with a wood stove, cooking on one is an art form in and of itself.

About the time Suzy, and her brothers were starting to hit puberty, her father noticed that there was a problem. Daddies solution to that problem was to put Suzy’s brothers to work. There is a lot of work on a farm. Backbreaking, mind numbing work. Working from before sunrise to after sunset can suck any rambuntionishness from a boy at that stage of life when he starts to notice that girls are different. But only temporarily. And Suzy’s daddy knew that.

While the brothers were working off the early onset of testosterone. Suzy and her daddy headed for the woods. The first thing he taught her was fighting. Real fighting. Knockdown, drag out, life on the line fighting. In the process he wasn’t politically correct either. He very quickly taught Suzy that an attacker didn’t care about rules. And If she wanted to survive any kind of attack, she had 2 choices. Roll over and play dead or fight. And if she planned on surviving, she needed to fight dirty.

The first time she gave her daddy a black eye was one of the proudest of both of their lives. It also paid daddy back for all the black eyes Suzy had gone through.

Next on the schedule was knifes. Daddy taught Suzy that while she might not be able to pack a firearm. and that sometimes a machete would also be looked down on. But a pocket knife, a 2 1/2-inch folding lock back knife was usually considered OK for public use. And that’s where they started. They didn’t use real blades, but whittled practice knifes and used them.

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